Fairlie handy fixture for Norfolk Alliance Premier Division leaders Fakenham

Fakenham's Chad Bowes, reverse sweeping, on his way to a century. Picture: RONNIE HEYHOE

Fakenham's Chad Bowes, reverse sweeping, on his way to a century. Picture: RONNIE HEYHOE - Credit: Archant

Fakenham have a great opportunity to strengthen their championship challenge on Saturday.

Keegan Monahan-Fairlie’s men sit top of the Norfolk Alliance Premier Division summit after 10 matches. And they will be expected to add to their tally this weekend when they take on basement boys Ashmanhaugh & Barton Wanderers, a team who have won only twice.

Any sort of slip-up looks set to be punished, with Sprowston pushing hard to catch the leaders at just beyond the half-way mark.

The pair go into this weekend’s matches having edged away from the chasing pack thanks to important home victories at the weekend.

The table-toppers and their nearest challengers finally opened up some daylight by inflicting defeats on the two teams directly below them in the standings. And now they’ll be keen to kick on from the impressive wins to turn what has looked like a six-way dogfight for glory into a two-horse race for silverware in the coming weeks.

Fakenham had already beaten Brooke, but knew they were going to have to perform outstandingly to complete a double over the surprise package, fourth. Their cause wasn’t made any easier by Matt Collinge’s 66 pushing the visitors to 235-7.

Yet from the moment South African overseas star Chad Bowes smashed a six and two fours from his first three deliveries it looked like Monahan-Fairlie’s side meant business.

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Bowes and Luke Findlay (27) put on 109 before the latter was finally sent packing having plundered 119. Harry Blackiston’s 49 helped get the pace-setters across the line.

Sprowston remain hot on their heels, just eight points adrift, after seeing off Old Buckenham, the team directly below them.

Andy Lawrence hit 68 not out in the away club’s 247-6. Not to be outshone, Tim Hales (75) and Frankie Sutton (87) ensured the second-placed outfit’s lead over the Bucks now stands at a more healthy-looking 18 points.

Elsewhere in the top-flight, Ed Landymore’s terrific 111, well supported by Will Denny’s 61, saw promoted Stow, eighth, claim a winning draw during a crucial game towards the bottom against Ashmanhaugh.

They are 13 points better off than A&B who are tied on 89 with ninth-placed Swardeston A.

The side that pipped Fakenham to the title last term, Downham, remain down in sixth as their defence of the crown continues to falter.

Their 71-victory over Swardeston A ensured they were not dragged further into trouble below them in the table.